Why Mamata Banerjee continues to have a huge support base in West Bengal


Though West Bengal is lagging behind in many aspects, the support base of the ruling party and its CM Mamata Banerjee is still significant. Unemployment is rising, party cadres and the top brass are meddling with every affair. There are politics and powerplay everywhere. This article gives an overview of the reasons for this almost intact support base.

Now, the most talked about politician all over the country other than Mr Narendra Modi and Mr Rahul Gandhi is Ms Mamata Banerjee, the CM of West Bengal. There is no doubt about her capabilities to draw the crowd. Since she began her political career, she took up the issues of common people, the downtrodden, the mismanagement of the incumbent government by organizing rallies at various parts of the state. She is an expert in organizing protest movements and rallies. At times, you may think she is quarrelling at the rallies, but that is her usual way of protest.

The Background

During the left front rule in West Bengal, she was even assaulted by the police when she sat on a dharna in front of the then CM Jyoti Basu's chamber. At that time she was the leader of the Youth Congress and was injured following the police action. She fought against the left misrule in the state and because of her differences with the Congress party she formed the TMC. The formation of her party was on a ground that has died its natural death long ago. During the late 90s, the foreign origin of former Congress president Sonia Gandhi was a major poll issue and Mamata Banerjee along with few other Congress leaders formed the new party the Trinamool Congress. At that time she was very vocal against the left front government in West Bengal and termed the Congress as the 'B Team' of the left. In every election, she dubbed the Congress in West Bengal as the 'B Team' of the left and accused the party of hobnobbing with the lefts to help them stay in power. The left front was a formidable force at that time and nobody dared to speak against them.

The Singur Movement

Then came the issue of acquisition of farmlands in Singur by the Tata Motors in 2006. There were many unwilling farmers whose lands were forcibly acquired for the Tata Nano car factory. Ms Banerjee sat on a 26-day hunger strike at central Kolkata to spearhead the movement against forcible land acquisition. The Singur movement was even more intensified after the police firing at Nandigram where many agitating farmers lost their lives. The political scenario started to shift and eventually, after the 2011 assembly elections the TMC stormed into power. The people all over West Bengal were tired of the left misrule and expected a lot from the TMC government. They thought Ms Banerjee as their saviour and after that, the TMC is winning almost all the local body elections without any difficulty. The political colour of the state was changed from red to green, but the situation never changed. The unemployment is still on the rise, there are political interference and highhandedness in every government department, no significant industry is setting its foot in the state, but still, the TMC and Ms Banerjee enjoy a large support base. If you think of overall development, it is still lagging way behind all other major states. Since there is no significant industrial development in the state, those who have already left never think of returning to the state. Still, there are huge crowds at the meeting organized by the TMC all over the state. Many are forced to attend those meetings, but the election results are always going in favour of TMC in most cases.

Now, let's take a look into a few interesting facts that are helping the TMC to keep the support base intact.

Emotion

The people of Bengal, I would specifically say Bengalis, are always very emotional. When you act because of your high emotions, the judgement gets disturbed and Ms Banerjee knows it very well. By keeping her agitations alive at different parts of rural Bengal, her image is like a fighter in the eyes of uneducated masses in rural areas. They still think Didi (Ms Banerjee is popularly known to all as Didi) is with them and fighting for justice. The poor village folks seldom verify whether the agitations are justified or organized just to gather a crowd.

Simple Living

Ms Banerjee herself declared that as a chief minister and MLA of the state, she never takes any salary. She lives in a simple one-storied house and dresses in the most simple way. This is highlighted on many occasions and one of the reasons for her popularity among the masses. Even when she was the Railways minister in the Vajpayee led NDA government, Mr Vajpayee was surprised at the conditions of her home when he came to meet her mother.

Attitude To Fight

She fought bravely against all odds and defeated the left front almost single-handedly. Even a few left leaders at that time acknowledged her courage to take the relevant issues forward and fight for justice. This indomitable spirit of fighting the political battle helped her to create an image of a warrior. She fights it out the same way when it comes to opposing the policies of the central government. People do not analyze much to see whether it is justified or not. Many still think she is fighting for injustice. During administrative meetings, she reprimands the top officers and even her ministerial colleagues. This keeps the officials in a jittery and people also get to know how upright she is.

Beautification

Though people may say these as cosmetic changes, you will find the city shining brightly during the night. Not only the city, lanes and bye-lanes of the rural areas are also illuminated by installing LEDs. There is a beautification drive everywhere and in many places, parks and water fountains are installed to enhance the outlook of the place. In many parks, you can find the Rabindrasangeet (Tagore's songs) soothingly played during the evenings. To an outsider, this is undoubtedly a soothing experience.

Fairs and Festivals

As there is almost no new industry coming up in the state, you need to contain frustration among the youths. By doling out a specific amount to the clubs and local youth organizations, the party is trying to keep them happy. If youths can be kept happy by these tactics there is every chance of getting their support all the time. This is helping the party to build up cadres and is essential to growing their strength. There are seasonal festivals and fairs organized throughout the year which keeps the artisans happy. At least, they get a handful of customers in these fairs.

Conclusion

Though it is too early to predict the outcome of the general elections, Ms Banerjee is going to play a major role in the formation of the next government at the centre. She has nicely copied the tactics of the previous left front government to cling to power and trying to remove the loopholes by creating a clean image. It may be a little tough to regain the faith of the people of the city, she needs to carry out many more developmental projects rather concentrating only on beautification and organizing festivals. She fought hard to come to this position but must fulfil the dreams of those who gave her a chance to sit in the CM's chair.


Article by Sankalan Bhattacharya
Sankalan "Life is easier when you enjoy what you do"

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